How to design for civic engagements?

Today I got vaccinated as a part of our community drive. I had to travel exactly 2 mins (to the club house) to get the vaccine done for me and my entire family. While I am very grateful to have vaccine come to me, the designer in me was critcal about onboarding process and the struggle by the vaccination staff from the hospital.

The registration desk spent 15 mins figuring out the OTP for my mother's old phone that was let go 6 years ago because it is tied to her Aadhar. Every min they asked for a new OTP I had to run out of the building to check for SMS in a phone that is not registered. Finally they mentioned I could figure out a secret code in my CoWin portal. Damn that was a secret to me!

After 20 min struggle they told her she needs to wait for 10 more days for her second dose vaccine. The entire confusion was because it used the word due date and last date 🤦‍♀️  The drama continued for 1 in 5 cases. The researcher in me was secretly doing a rapid ethnography just observing the entire scene.

Compared to passport seva kendra, IRCTC and other civic engagements of our government, CoWin is a lot better from a design perspective. I really mean it. The struggles by the users are real but comparing to the impact and efficiency the portal is having on every citizen the designer in me really felt good.  

If the question is, can we do even better, the answer is an absolute YES. I spent a few minutes sketching the new CoWin portal while i was waiting post vaccination (30 mins mandatory wait time to check for adverse reactions, rashes etc).

Designing for an on-demand entertainment or an ecommerce app is different from designing for a vaccination portal (a government service) that the entire citizens of India will use. It is unsexy but absolutely impactful.

Here are three design tenets for a better civic engagement like a vaccination drive. The same can be applied for other applications as well. For now I am using this as a case to explain the tenets.

  1. Design for everyone including the extreme user context
    There are many types of users in our country. Many have phones but that doesn't mean all of them are tech savvy. Create redundancy and ease for extreme context like no signal, no phone, no tech, no guidance and no money (choosing free vs paid). Have multiple designs for different segments of users including physical forms, physical vaccination certificates, just SMS etc.
  2. Do less
    By default show the vaccination centers and drives near me that are available. If the phone number is registered then automatically let the user know how many days left, how many slots nearby and more. No input must be needed by the user to check the details. Provide APIs to allow other third party to build more applications.
  3. Design with Data
    Show only presence. Hide the absence. If vaccination is not available near me do not show the hospitals or schools or drive. NA and fully booked does not help the user who is desperate to get the booking. Show only what is available next to me for next week. Show what is the next available slot without any inputs from the user.

Digital India has come a long way. However the system integration struggles remain. This drive is easy but it can be made even more easier with very little effort. A beautiful case for my case book 🙌

🥂 to India!

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